Ian McKellen filmography and biography
Date of birth: 25 May 1939, Burnley, Lancashire, England, UK
Ian McKellen biography
On May 25th, 1939, in the town of Burnley in northern England, Ian
Murray McKellen was born. His parents, Denis and Margery, soon moved
with Ian and his sister Jean to the coal mining town of Wigan. It was
in this small town that young Ian rode out World War II. He soon
developed a fascination with acting and the theater, which was
encouraged by his parents. They would all bring him to plays, those by
William Shakespeare (I), in particular. The amateur school
productions fostered Ian's growing passion for theatre. When Ian was of
age to begin attending school, he made sure to get roles in all of the
productions. At Bolton School in particular, he developed his skills
early on. Indeed, his first role in a Shakespearian play was at Bolton,
as Malvolio in "Twelfth Night". Ian soon began attending
Stratford-upon-Avon theater festivals, where he saw the greats perform:
Laurence Olivier, Wendy Hiller (I), John Gielgud,
Ralph Richardson (I) and Paul Robeson. He continued his
education in English Drama, but soon it fell by the wayside as he
concentrated more and more on performing. He eventually obtained his
Bachelor of Arts in 1961, and began his career in earnest. McKellen
began working in theatre over the next few years. Very few people knew
of Ian's homosexuality; he saw no reason to go public, nor had he told
his family. They did not seem interested in the subject and so he saw
no reason to bring it up. In 1988, Ian publicly came out of the closet
on the BBC Radio 4 program, while discussing Margaret Thatcher's
"section 28" legislation which would make the "public promotion of
homosexuality" a crime. It was reason enough for McKellen to take a
stand, and he has been active in the Gay Rights movement ever since.
Ian currently resides in Limehouse, where he lives with his current lover of 8 years, Sean Mathias. The two worked together on the film Bent. To this day, McKellen works mostly in theater, and was knighted by 'Queen Elizabeth' in 1990 for his efforts in the arts. However, he has managed to make several quite successful forays into film. He has appeared in several productions of Shakespeare's works including his well received Richard III, and in a variety of other movies. However, it has only been recently that his star has finally begun to shine in the eyes of North American audiences. Roles in various films, Cold Comfort Farm (1995) (TV), Apt Pupil and Gods and Monsters, riveted audiences. The latter, in particular, created a sensation in Hollywood, and McKellen's role garnered him several of awards and nominations,including a Golden Globe and an Oscar nod. McKellen continues to work extensively on stage... solidifying his role as Laurence Olivier's worthy successor,having recently scored hits in the London productions of "Peter Pan" and Noel Coward's "Present Laughter".
Ian McKellen trivia
- He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in 1990 for his services to drama.
- He played the vampire in the video for "Heart" by Pet Shop Boys.
- Originated the role of Antonio Salieri in the Broadway production of "Amadeus."
- He had a tattoo of the Elvish character for 9 along with all the other members of the fellowship in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
- Is a vegetarian.
- Was offered the part of Mission Commander Swanbeck in Mission: Impossible II. He was not able to accept the role, due to a prior theatre engagement in London. The part eventually went to Anthony Hopkins.
- He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1979 for his services to drama.
- Played Maggie Smith (I) in a "Weekend Update" skit on an episode of Saturday Night Live that he hosted.
- While being a guest on Jay Leno (December 26, 2003), he said that he had not seen X2 when it opened in theaters, he only saw it when the DVD hit the stores. He then called up Bryan Singer and asked, "Is there going to be X-Men 3?" Singer replied, "Yes". In his excitement he got Singer six theater tickets to go see The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. As it turned out, X-Men: The Last Stand would not be directed by Singer.
- According to an interview, one of the last things Margaret Thatcher did as Prime Minister was recommending him for a knighthood.
- The original Lord of the Rings books, and X-Men comics, both feature a character named Sauron, and a book entitled "The Return of the King." The X-Men graphic novel The Return of the King is, appropriately, about the return of Magneto.
- He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1985 (1984 season) for Best Actor in a Revival for "Wild Honey".
- He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1991 (1990 season) for Best Actor in "Richard III" at the Royal National Theatre.
- Before performing the role of Gandalf, he listened to a recording of J.R.R. Tolkien reading Gandalf lines from the novel. He used this as a base for creating the character, and imitated the accent used by Tolkien in the recording.
- Began acting as a means of escape from mourning after his mother's death and constant bullying at school from fellow students.
- He was awarded the 1989 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in "Othello".
- He was awarded the 1984 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor for his performance in "Coriolanus".
- He was awarded the 1989 London Critics Circle Theatre Award (Drama Theatre Award) for Best Actor for his performance in "Othello".
- Graduated with a 2:2 in English from Cambridge University.
- Studied at St. Catharine's College, University of Cambridge, when he was 18, with Sir Derek Jacobi, and with whom he had been "desperately in love'", as he confessed on Inside the Actors Studio. In an article in "The Advocate", issue dated December 11, 2001, he further explained that what he had felt for Jacobi in their youth was "a passion that was undeclared and unrequited.".
- Originally aspired to be a journalist.
- Shares his middle name, Murray, with both Michael Hordern (Michael Murray Hordern), his predecessor in the role of Gandalf, and F. Murray Abraham, his successor in the role of Antonio Salieri.
- Was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford Upon Avon, England.
- Wore a prosthetic nose to play Gandalf in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
- Has played cult characters in two of the biggest franchises; he played Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Magneto in the X-Men series.
- Was set to play Antonio in Michael Radford's adaptation of William Shakespeare (I)'s The Merchant of Venice, but had to drop at the last minute due to scheduling conflicts.
- Won Broadway's 1981 Tony Award as Best Actor (Play) for originating the role of Antonio Salieri in "Amadeus." He was nominated in the same category in 1984 for "Ian McKellen Acting Shakespeare."
- He used the phrase "old friend" in both the X-Men and The Lord of the Rings film series. In both cases (to Christopher Lee (I) as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings and Patrick Stewart (I) as Xavier in X-Men) it is said to an ally who has become a nemesis and "old friend" is said mockingly.
- Has worked with two Faramirs. Prior to appearing in The Lord of the Rings films with David Wenham, he appeared in the film Plenty, with Andrew Seear. Seear played Faramir in the BBC radio adaptation, opposite Ian Holm.
- He said that appeal of the X-Men films to him was the concept of mutants being shunned, something he says he identifies with as he was repeatedly shunned as an open homosexual.
- Was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company at the same time as Patrick Stewart (I).
- Like his The Da Vinci Code character, Sir Leigh Teabing, he has been knighted. As such, prior to being cast, he spotted two errors in the book's portrayal of Knighthood. Knights neither receive ID badges nor are granted any of the special privileges Teabing demands as a result of Knighthood.
- Has appeared with Bruce Davison in four different films: Six Degrees of Separation, Apt Pupil, X-Men and X2. The first of these is the only one not directed by Bryan Singer.
- Only performer to receive an acting Academy Award nomination for Peter Jackson (I)'s "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
- Appears in "The Lord of the Rings" and "X-Men", both of which required a lead character to be recast soon after production started. In "The Lord of the Rings", Stuart Townsend was replaced by Viggo Mortensen, and in X-Men, Dougray Scott was replaced by Hugh Jackman.
- Says the same line, "The war has begun", in the trailers of both the major, unrelated blockbusters X2 and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
- In the Independent of Sunday 2006 Pink List - a list of the most influential gay men and women - he came no. 1, up from no. 2, knocking Elton John from top spot.
- When he appeared on "Desert Island Discs" (the long-running BBC radio program that asks prominent people what eight pieces of music they would take to a deserted island), the pieces he chose were: 1. "Stars and Stripes Forever" (John Philip Sousa (I)) performed by Vladimir Horowitz; 2. Part of "Adagio for Strings" (Barber) performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Simon; 3. Part of 2nd movement of Late Quartet No.13 in B flat Opus 130 (Ludwig van Beethoven) performed by the Lindsay String Quartet; 4. "Rose's Turn" (Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim) performed by Ethel Merman; 5. "Stormy Weather" (Koehler/Arlen) performed by Lena Horne; 6. "Mississippi Goddam" (Nina Simone (I)) performed by Simone; 7. "Harrison's Clocks (Birtwhistle) performed by Joanna McGregor; 8. "Dancing Queen" (B. Andersson/S.Andersson/Ulvaeus) performed by ABBA; His one allowed book was "A Dictionary of Flora and Fauna", and his luxury was a grand piano.
- Has played both a Holocaust victim (X-Men) and a Nazi (Apt Pupil, both in movies directed by Bryan Singer.
- He was awarded the Companion of Honor in the Queen's 2008 New Years Honors List For his services to the gay and entertainment community.
- Is good friends with Monica Lewinsky. The two met at the The 71st Annual Academy Awards (1999) (TV). She accompanied him to the London premiere of Gods and Monsters.
- Ranked #45 in the 2008 Telegraph's list "the 100 most powerful people in British culture".
- Was Head boy at Bolton School.
- Marched at London's Gay Pride Parade July 5th 2008.
- Hadn't read either The Golden Compass (aka. Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman, or any of the "Lord of the Rings" books by J.R.R. Tolkien before he was cast in the movie adaptations.
- Played Magneto in three consecutive films - the only other actors to play comic book criminals in three films as of 2008 are James Franco (I) as Harry Osborn, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and his X-Men co-star 'Rebecca Romijn'.
- Close friends with Rachel Weisz.
Ian McKellen quotes
- [on his first theatre experience, "Peter Pan"] I wasn't over-impressed. For one thing it wasn't a real crocodile and I could see the wires.
- I think it's one thing to declare your sexuality, if you care about what that is. It's another thing to start talking in public about what you do in private and who you do it with. It's not that they [my significant others] don't want to be identified as gay, but that they don't want to be identified as ... with me.
- Many unthinking people just don't like the idea of gays joining in their games, nor in the military and, it would seem, in the movies.
- When I, as Gandalf, meet Bilbo or Frodo at home, I bump my head on the rafters. [J.R.R. Tolkien] didn't think to mention it.
- I am encouraged by the theatricality of [J.R.R. Tolkien's] readings - full of rhythm and humor and characterization. Without question Gandalf is like Tolkien but then so, I suspected, are Frodo and Aragorn.
- I've had enough of being a gay icon! I've had enough of all this hard work, because, since I came out, I keep getting all these parts, and my career's taken off. I want a quiet life. I'm going back into the closet. But I can't get back into the closet, because it's absolutely jam-packed full of other actors.
- I ... think of the Bible as great literature rather than great history; great imagination rather than reliable witness. Whatever, it is not as a law book that I respect the Bible.
- Acting is no longer about lying. It's now about revealing the truth. People are at ease with me now. Honesty is the best policy.
- "The Lord of the Rings" is a mythology, it is a fairy tale, it's an adventure story. It never happened. Except somewhere in our hearts.
- It wasn't exactly a mistake, but if there's anything I regret, it's probably having disguised my own native accent. Actors of my generation all tended to speak RP [received pronunciation]. Of course, it's all different now and drama students are encouraged to keep their regional accents and be able to do RP when required. Even at the BBC these days there's no standardised accent, and I rather think that's a good thing.
- [12/5/03, about the cheering fans outside the InterContinentel Hotel, where he was staying in Wellington, New Zealand:] It's like several Christmases all come at once. They all love Gandalf, but I'm like Father Christmas in the shop. I'm not the real one.
- [12/5/03, on initially thinking it crazy to release the LOTR trilogy 12 months apart] I thought people wouldn't remember what happened a year ago. But I hadn't factored that they would be so successful at the box office, and that so many people would buy the DVD and videos in between the release of each film. I had thought the whole enterprise was doomed, because of the release pattern. I'm very happy to have been proved wrong.
- They'll let me play a gray-bearded wizard, but they still wouldn't cast a young gay actor - who was out - in a straight romantic lead.
- They didn't call it marriage, although you can call it anything you want. The one thing you cannot mention is God, that is absolutely verboten. I suppose I'm a bit mean-spirited, but I really can't see why the government couldn't just say gay people can get married - that would have been true equality and so much simpler. But that hasn't been done because they couldn't face the furore. So they've passed a law that is not available to straight people - straight people cannot have a civil partnership, they have to get married - extraordinary.
- If The Da Vinci Code had been filming in a place where it rains a lot, I probably wouldn't have done it. Quite low down in the list is "How much am I going to be paid?" I'd say I was quite cheap, but my main feeling about money is that I don't want to feel as though I'm being taken advantage of. Certainly, I'm cheaper than Anthony Hopkins. The other actors they asked to play Gandalf wouldn't go to New Zealand on that money for that length of time. I thought it would be a bit of an adventure. Tony Hopkins didn't think it would be an adventure. Tony is part of Hollywood. I'm an eccentric English actor, and there's a lot of us around.
- If I was a star, it would be difficult to go off and do Coronation Street. So I guess I'm not a star.
- Nobody has ever looked to Hollywood for social advance. Hollywood is a dream factory. I love the way that conservatives think that Hollywood is a bed of radicalism - it couldn't be more staid and old-ladyship if it tried. The audience don't give a blind whatever about the sexuality of actors. Gay people fancy straight people and vice-versa. It's all in the head, so what does it matter? You're not going to meet 'Heath Ledger'. You're not going to find out . . . It's the image you're looking at and falling in love with. There will be girls who go and see those two unhappy gay cowboys and go home and have fantasy dreams about them. Lovely!
- It may be my rather puritanical upbringing at odds with my inborn laziness that makes me feel guilty at the end of the day, unless I am able to point at some achievement. But this need be no more impressive than cooking a meal or going for a long walk.
- I don't make much distinction between being a stand-up comic and acting Shakespeare - in fact, unless you're a good comedian, you're never going to be able to play Hamlet properly.
- I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer at the front saying, "This is fiction." I mean, walking on water? I mean, it takes an act of faith.
- It is very, very, very difficult for an American actor who wants a film career to be open about his sexuality. And even more difficult for a woman if she's lesbian. It's very distressing to me that that should be the case. The film industry is very old fashioned in California.
- My confidence only really peaked when I was 49 and said, "Yes, I'm gay."
- In theatre, I have been able to take parts I didn't think I could do - you have time to rehearse and learn. In movies, they want you to do what they know you can do - there isn't the time.
- I looked down from my terrace hanging over the Thames one morning. It was low tide and there, stranded on the pebbles, was a four-legged corpse - hairless, white and bloated. Was it a calf or a sheep or a goat or a dog? I stared at it until the tide rose and washed it away. For 24 hours I was off my food. When I started eating again, I couldn't face meat - fresh or tinned. Overnight I was vegetarian and I have been for 15 years or more. I've seen the pictures of factory farming and followed the politics of mad cow disease and felt effortlessly superior. Yet it's not reason or conscience that keeps me off meat and fowl--and these days fish, too--just a memory of that unidentifiable, decomposing body on the beach.
- About the 2008 death of Brad Renfro: "I first caught sight of Brad Renfro when he was kicking a football around with Bryan Singer on the half-built set of Apt Pupil in Hollywood. He was a kid having fun and that's how I shall always remember him. But he was more than that. He was a proper actor and when we worked together he was determined to be accepted as such. On set, he was blusteringly confident although it was obvious he would have benefited from training as an actor. Yet, as Todd, the disturbed teenager in Apt Pupil, he tapped into an inner demonic world and carried the film on his young shoulders. He longed to belong in the alien world which perhaps in the end overwhelmed him. He was only 25 and it is dreadful we shan't see all that he might have achieved."
- I didn't like my character. He didn't seem very deep. He just seemed a representative of evil. - On Apt Pupil
- When I act, some people fancy me and some of them are women. There we are! What's the problem? They don't believe me when I say I am in love with a woman?...They don't believe me when I say I am a wizard? They believe me even though they know I am not. It's all nonsense. Everyone knows we are acting. [In a Reuters interview, responding to those who say that gay actors shouldn't come out because then no one will find them believable in romantic scenes with actors of the opposite gender.]